NIU water bill may increase $16K

By Leah Nicolini

NIU may see a $16,000 increase in its water bill in 2016 and then a 4.5 percent increase from 2017 to 2024 if City Council approves the second reading of a $13.1 million water repair plan Monday.

The water rate increase would fund a 10-year plan that will fix the water supply well, improve water treatment, recoat the water tower and replace the water main, according to the Oct. 26 City Council agenda. City Council passed the first reading of the increase in water rates unanimously at a Oct. 26 meeting.

None of the repairs will be done on NIU property. NIU receives water from two water towers which come from five wells owned by DeKalb. NIU’s average bill is $600,000 a year, said NIU Chief Engineer Justin Bend.

Some of the additional costs imposed by the repair will be alleviated by working on water conservation technology and maintaining equipment, Bend said.

“We’re looking into more recovery systems,” Bend said. “Any piece of equipment that we’re looking at will salvage water and use it again. Every year we strive for water conservation, so this [increase in water rates] will give us a boost.”

The heating plant intends to purchase a $100,000 reverse osmosis machine, which will increase the amount of reusable water for the west heating plant by 2017. This purchase is not being made as a result of the water rate increase.

Other conservation initiatives may include shutting down buildings over the summer and funneling students and faculty into fewer buildings, Bend said.

“I predict our water usage will decrease because we are getting so much more diligent and aggressive with using equipment that does not waste water,” Bend said. “I think the only thing that would increase our usage is if we grew, so if our enrollment grew. Although the price of the water might go up, I think the water usage will go down.”

Water usage fees for DeKalb residents will increase by 2.22 percent in 2016 and 4.5 percent from 2017 to 2020. Fees will fluctuate in 2021 according to the consumer price index, but increases will remain below 1 percent, said Finance Director Cathy Haley.